General Summer Favorites

Semesters are starting up again soon (or for an unlucky half of the four Novel Nests editors, has already begun) so it’s time to discuss what we’ve discovered and loved this summer!

Amanda Cordero

This summer, I’ve started taking baby steps towards living better, specifically living more sustainably and more toxic-free. Part of that process has been switching up a few products in my beauty routine, starting with deodorant. I won’t expound on why traditional, aluminum-containing deodorants are bad for you, but I will say that I’ve found something special with Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant. I recommend the Charcoal + Magnesium and Bergamot + Lime scents.

As mentioned earlier, I’m trying to live more sustainably – and using a French press is a chic way to do just that! First pro: I’ve eliminated the need for coffee filters and plastic-lined tea bags. Second pro: I’ve been making bulk iced coffee for cheap. I simply pour my coffee from the French press to a large mason jar and let it chill overnight. The next morning, I add almond milk and some coconut creamer, let it sit in the freezer while I get ready, then I’m good to go! Buh-bye Starbucks!

I’ve been a workout addict this summer, and Austin’s HEAT Bootcamp has been enabling me. By far my favorite part of HEAT has been the trainers: their positivity is contagious and they never let you sell yourself short. There’s always one more push-up to be had, one more lap to be run, one more pull-up to struggle through. I love it. Going to HEAT five to six times a week has built my self-confidence, not to mention some muscle definition!

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I’ve been addicted to podcasts this summer. They’re perfect for traffic-filled commutes and long runs (especially if you get bored when you run). My recommendations are Fat Mascara (beauty and makeup), Full Coverage (more beauty and makeup), The Sporkful (food!), and Rewrite the Rules (interviews with interesting movers-and-shakers, hosted by my friend Alex Starr).

Cindy Liu

Glow Recipe Pink Juice Moisturizer: I have been loving this lightweight, gel, jolly-rancher smelling moisturizer all summer. It is so refreshing and just seeps right into the skin. The moisturizing benefits are long lasting o it keeps my t-zone from turning into an oil swamp by noon.

Cherries: a bit random, but I have been having a love affair with cherries all summer. They are so sweet and refreshing, especially straight out the fridge. Best of all, they’re a healthy alternative to satisfying my sweet tooth and they contain loads of antioxidants.

Not wearing makeup: another weird one, but it’s one I’ve embraced almost every day this summer. Thanks to a revamped skincare routine, my skin has been a lot happier recently which has left me confident to leave the house bare-faced. While I ADORE putting on my face, there is something so nice about letting my skin breathe all day and rocking an actual no makeup look.

Ella Liu

Smashbox 24 hour Photo Finish Shadow Primer: After literal years of complaining about my eyeliner smudging off, Cindy finally said “why don’t you use an eye-shadow primer?” I’m not sure why I hadn’t used it until now but definitely regret having such an easy solution to my smudgy problems and not noticing for four years. This smashbox primer basically glues any liner to my eyelids (though it all comes off easily enough with some coconut oil and micellar water). It was a bit pricey so I’m definitely in the market for an effective drugstore shadow primer.

Jillian Dempsey Lid Tint in Bronze: I know I’ve talked about this one before, but it’s honestly just such a fantastic summer find. It’s sheer and buildable and doesn’t come off with sweat. The slight shimmer in the pigment makes it the perfect for that glowy summer look. It does crease, but it supposed to.

Book by Commodity: I bought this a while ago but decided not to use it until recently because it’s a great summer perfume. It smells like the Dove cucumber body wash but in a super sophisticated way that makes it suitable for me to spray around until I choke.

Anna Lam

Every season brings its own newness. Change is a constant, and with change almost always the developmental process of growth. Sometimes the growth is painless, other times it’s uncomfortable and accompanied with the persistent feeling of being somehow unmoored. It’s the feeling of idle drifting that, unless you’re paying attention, can leave you with a sense of stranded-ness in a place unfamiliar. It’s precisely this feeling that has encouraged me to adopt certain stable “rituals” throughout my day. Though it’s summer, one of my favorite new habits has been drinking warm tea in the evenings. I’ve always loved tea, but making a conscious habit of drinking it at the close of each long summer day has a delightfully calming effect. I’m a fairly anxious person, always a little wired, and my productivity tends to feed most on my own stress-induced frenetic energy. So, naturally, I try to look for simple ways I can do daily to calm the nerves. Most recently, this has been the humble warmth of a favorite mug filled with freshly brewed tea. I drink everything: chamomile, mint, jasmine, lavender, red raspberry leaf, rose, bitter melon, ginger, chai. All of these teas have amazing health benefits (particularly, I’ve found, the ginger—boiling fresh ginger root definitely helps with sore throats and slight colds, although this is the one tea I recommend sweetening with a little of honey, as it has a bit of a bite to it). I typically drink these teas unsweetened, but share your tea with a friend and it comes naturally sweet.

This past summer I also picked up music again in earnest. It’s amazing how things come back to you—the familiar chord progressions of at this point well-aged soft pop hits from the likes of Coldplay and Regina Spektor are now tinged with just enough nostalgia to be fun to play again. I’ve also started writing my own music. What a pleasure it’s been to indulge a creative impulse again. There’s nothing like creating something you can call your own, especially when you’ve worked at it until you satisfy yourself. At this point, my music hasn’t hit many ears, but I’m hoping to share more of it in the very near future in the hopes of connecting my own personal experiences with others. Until then, I’ve been uploading covers of some of my favorites to YouTube as my creative project (check out my cover of “On Melancholy Hill” there—it’s my favorite so far).

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#WeekendGoals: Strobing, Fluttering, Prancing -A Guide to Weekend Getaway Makeup

This summer has been well spent. I’ve made new friends in Austin, explored some pretty cool places, and eaten darn good food. But I’m also grateful that I’ve spent a good number of weekends traveling to Houston, Waco, and Dallas to see friends and family (and attend ALL THE WEDDINGS EVER).

Because of all my weekend getaways, I’ve become a pro at packing the absolute essentials when it comes to makeup. I aim for a polished, slightly flirty look that can go from dinner with friends to a chapel wedding. I focus on the big three: skin, eyes, and brows. (I’m not a big lipstick girl, but just throw in your favorite lip color and you’re set for the weekend!)

Skin

Since my skin is pretty decent, I don’t usually wear foundation. Also, it doesn’t help me with my goal to get better about reapplying sunscreen, so most of the time, I forego the stuff.

But on that note . . . the first goal always is to fix a week’s worth of sleep deprivation. I have the worst under eye bags ever – puffy and prune colored – so concealer is a must. After moisturizing my under-eye area (I prefer a little face oil to do this), I use an iota-amount NYX’s Gotcha Covered Concealer in 06 Golden. I pat that in with a damp sponge, making sure I get the inner corners of my eyes – this makes a world of difference in making me look awake!

If I still need a little bit of brightening after going to town with NYX, I’ll use the Glossier Stretch Concealer in Dark (here at NovelNests, we are all fiends about Glossier #NotSpon #ButWeWish). What I love about this concealer is that it’s so user-friendly – just use a clean ring finger to pat it on and you’re good to go!

Next up is blush. I LOVE BLUSH. I LOVE ALL THE BLUSH. Blush just makes me look more alive and free – like I’ve spent the morning prancing through a field of wildflowers with a hunky cowboy. In reality, I probably spent the morning having my bootcamp trainer yell at me to do “One more pushup, dammit!”

But I digress.

I’ve been favoring a glossy, melty look this summer (if you can’t beat the heat, join the heat), so I’ve been ditching powders for creams and liquids. I’ve been defaulting to two blushes this summer: Glossier Cloud Paint in Puff and Revlon’s PhotoReady Cream Blush in Nude. Both give a natural-looking flush and are easy to apply with just a few swipes of your fingers. These don’t have the longest staying-power, so I do need to touch up once or twice during the day. But that’s a low price to pay to look like I’ve been breezily prancing with a cowboy Casanova.

And there’s no contouring here – I want to look effortless! So I turn to strobing the planes of my face with Milk Makeup’s Highlighter in Lit, a pearl champagne. This highlighter imparts a subtle sheen that embodies the glossy look I’m going for. I don’t apply straight from the bullet; rather, I smear some on my fingers then press down on my cheekbones, eyelids, and Cupid’s bow.

Eyes

When I really want to amp my look, I turn to eyeliner. It makes my eyes look bigger and bolder. I’ve been using the Mally Evercolor Starlight Waterproof Liner in Midnight for a while. Smooth, long-lasting, and the blackest of blacks, this liner is a winner in my book. I have the oiliest eyelids though, so applying a primer is a must for extra hot days (I like the Urban Decay Priming Potion.)

I’m all about a big, fluttery lash. Like Ella, I love the Too Faced Better than Sex Mascara. It’s iconic for a reason.

And while I want the melty, sweaty look, I don’t want to look like a melty, sweaty raccoon. I layer the L’Oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise Waterproof Mascara over the Too Faced. (Since waterproof mascara can be pretty harsh on your lashes by itself, I recommend using a non-waterproof version first then layering a waterproof mascara to mitigate eyelash damage.) Is Lash Paradise a dupe for Better than Sex? Maybe, just maybe. Either way, it’s a good one for getting dramatic lashes!

Last step for my eyes, is to tight line. This step may be last but it’s definitely NOT LEAST. Tight lining makes the lashline look fuller so I get Bambi Eyes . . . which is all part of the master plan to look like a CAREFREE COQUETTE & PRANCER OF WILDFLOWER FIELDS. Sweaty sheen + Bambi eyes – where dem cowboys at? Anyway, my weapon of choice is NYX’s Jumbo Eye Pencil in Black Bean. How do you tight line, you ask? That’s a post for a different day . . . or go to YouTube and watch one of the millions of videos on how to do this. Either way, get yourself a good liner and go to town.

Eyebrows

Time to frame the face! My favorite is everyone’s favorite: Anastasia Brow Wiz in Granite. This stuff is SO GOOD at filling in sparse areas.

I take my time when I use Brow Wiz, but if I need to get out the door a little faster, I like using ULTA’s Brow Tint in Deep. While my NovelNests comrades like Glossier’s Boy Brow, I find that this is comparable in quality (and cheaper!). The formula is a little wetter than BB, so before use, I wipe off any excess product on the brush because it can get a little thick if I don’t. I focus this on the last half of my eyebrows which is where I need the most help. I also layer this over Brow Wiz if I want a bit of a thicker eyebrow.

And there you have it! I swipe a bit of Chapstick, Glossier’s Balm Dot Com, or Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm and I’m good to go for the weekend! Come at me, Monday, because my face is already here.

 

–Amanda Cordero

Cindy’s Empties – Pt. 1

Hey everyone! I’m coming at you with part 1 of a gigantic empties review today. It’s eternally long, so let’s just dive in.

Curology: I’ve been using this for about 7 months now and have seen a massive improvement in my skin. I haven’t had a single breakout in the last 2 months and I haven’t had a significant breakout in the last 5. Really remarkable. The nice thing about Curology is that the formula is custom made for you by a dermatologist who looks at your pictures and works with you to discuss your skin concerns. 10/10 would recommend.

Lancome Energie de Vie Pearly Lotion: I finally finished this off! I did a full review in my September favorites last year (here) and I still love it! It lasted nearly a whole year of almost daily use.

Thayers Witch Hazel: A tried a true cult classic. Love! Took me about 6 months to finish off the bottle. This toner isn’t drying and definitely does the job of evening out skin tone and keeping oiliness at bay, which is a must for my combination skin. I haven’t repurchased since I am going through some other toners at the moment, but will definitely restock once my toner stash decreases.

Avene Eau Thermale: I fell in love with facial mists after using this. It is just a gentle spray that does what it says on the can: reduces redness and soothes sensitive skin. I give my face and neck a once over whenever I come out of the shower before my skincare routine, before and after derma rolling, and whenever my skin just needs a little pick me up. It’s an affordable luxury that just adds a bit of extra pampering to your routine.

Caudalie Vinosource Crème Sorbet: This was a lovely moisturizer from one of my favorite French brands. Pros: it was light weight yet creamy and moisturizing. Cons: the bottle is quite small for the price. I finished it off almost a year ago and haven’t repurchased. I still quite like it, but there are more affordable moisturizers of better quality that I have found.

Caudalie CremeExfoliante: This was a heavy duty exfoliant, which I have found I don’t like all that much. It definitely did it’s job, but I prefer a more gentle exfoliant or a chemical exfoliant. If you like rough ones, this one is for you. It’s thick and creamy and jam-packed with exfoliating bits.

Caudalie Mousse Nettoyante: Caudalie’s gentle foaming cleanser is just that: gentle and foaming. I liked it a lot as it was quite gentle and did the job without stripping my skin. I wasn’t a massive fan of the instant foam – it reminded me of hand soap. But other than that, it was quite good.

Caudalie Lotion Tonique Hydratante: A nice moisturizing toner. I wasn’t particularly blown away by this, but it did what it set out to do: moisturize. I actually liked the Thayers Witch Hazel a little more since it did basically the same thing for half the price. If you’ve got a few extra bucks for a toner, I’d recommend this one, though. It lasted a good 6 months and I enjoyed using it.

Caudalie Reservatorl Lift: This was a sample moisturizer I got from somewhere (Cult Beauty maybe?) and it was quite generously sized. As a more oily-skinned person I didn’t love it. It was very thick, very creamy, and very oily, which just didn’t sit too well on my face. I also wasn’t a massive fan of the scent. Definitely won’t buy a full size. If, however, you are more dry-skinned, I think you’d quite like this one.

Glamglow Supermud Activated Charcoal Treatment: This thing is potent! I got it when my skin was having a particularly bad time last summer. It does really work, though the scent is incredibly strong. This was the smallest size and it went down fast. The product does tend to dry out in the can, so be sure to properly close the lid and use in a speedy manner. It’s a great allover mask for just sucking all the nastiness out of your pores or as a spot treatment for particularly stubborn spots overnight, which is how I primarily used it.

 

Phew! That was part 1! Keep an eye out for parts 2-4 which will be coming your way soon!

 

— Cindy Liu

Austin: A Summer Guide

I’m lucky enough to live in one of the coolest, most vibrant cities in America this summer – Austin. I’ve visited a few times in the past few years for concerts, but living here has given me a better appreciation for all things Austin. The city definitely lives by its catchy motto – “Keep Austin Weird” – but I’ve come to love it for its hospitality, scenery, and ubiquitous laid-back vibes. Below are a few of my favorite Austin haunts – turns out, keeping things weird is working out after all.

Mozart’s Coffee Roasters

A few friends and I have been meeting weekly at different coffee shops for co-writing sessions. By far, Mozart’s has been my favorite shop. Right on Lady Bird Lake, Mozart’s is a perfect place place to churn out stories while catching the sunset over the water. And while I’m not a big fan of pastries, I have a hard time resisting Mozart’s cheesecakes!

Austin Eastciders

I’m not much of a drinker, but I’m always down for a good cider. Austin and its surrounding areas has some excellent local picks. Austin Eastciders, a brewing company located in the growing east side of the city (hence the name), has become a favorite spot of mine with its cool, urban vibe, live music, and of course, tasty brews. My favorite is the Ruby Red Grapefruit flavor, but I can’t wait to try the new Lemon Ginger flavor!

The Boardwalk Trail by Lady Bird Lake

I hate running. I hate, hate, hate, running. My mind wanders, my legs get too chafe-y, it’s hot . . . I hate running. But I will willingly run on The Boardwalk Trail to catch breathtaking views of the city skyline as the sun rises. Skyline views aren’t the only things that keep me entertained here: I love seeing turtles sunbathe on logs, crew teams row smoothly across the Lake, and egrets swoop in for breakfast. Once, I saw an Austinite scale the railing, jump into the water, and swim across the Lake to the other side because . . . well, because that’s what you do in Austin.

South Congress Books

Trying to find parking on South Congress is a pain . . . but if you can swiftly maneuver into some back-angled street parking before the light behind you turns green and five o’clock traffic rushes towards your bumper, you’ve made it in Austin, baby! Every time I successfully find parking on South Congress, I treat myself to a visit to this used bookstore known for its vintage and first editions. Small, cozy, and well-curated, South Congress Books is perfect for when I’m in the mood for lazy evening perusals.

I still have a few more weeks before I leave the city, but I’m already dreading leaving. Austin, you’ve been good to me. Thanks for welcoming me with open arms, good books, and some cold brews!

 

–Amanda Cordero

 

In Praise of Minimalism: Vegetarian and Italian Food Traditions

I love the ethos of Italian cuisine. Variety may be the spice of life, but simplicity is its main ingredient. Whether that’s a warm cup of tea before bed or a small, quiet moment with someone you love, it doesn’t have to scintillate for it to be recognizably beautiful. Thus, the food of Italia. There are no surprises when you eat, and the ingredients don’t attempt to impress you. To begin with, there are never usually more than three or four ingredients at all, but each is reliably fresh, local, and expertly-prepared. As an ethical vegetarian and one already slightly inclined toward minimalist habits, I felt as if I was among birds of the same feather during my stay in Italy and that no more a harmonious marriage of food philosophies could be made than between that of Italy and my own.

The simplicity of vegetarianism is in its economy, but I even find the attendant humility of plant-foods to be an attractive aspect of the diet. It’s true that eating at a low trophic level can be an incredibly sustainable dietary choice in a world of increasingly limited resources and can constitute an affordable diet for those on a college budget. However, for me the real charm of vegetarianism is in the daily ways it connects me to myself and to those I care about. During moments of intermittent relief from the daily deluge that life normally brings, I love to prepare my own food. It’s a simple pleasure to be able to wash and chop my own vegetables and take the time to prepare a meal for either myself or those I love. Whether it’s warm bowls of veggie soup or spiced porridge on wintry days, or colorful fruit salads in spring, it does satisfy something besides just hunger. It’s a way to care about myself, my friends and family, and the planet that we inhabit.

There’s a similar flavor that is imparted to the food you eat in Italy, not just in the way it’s prepared, but in the way it’s eaten. Everything seems to move just a little slower in Italy, and that includes the meals. That can be frustrating for those of us used to a hit-and-run, grab-and-go lifestyle, but the evening repast in Italy is less about the food one eats and more about who has joined you for it. And hopefully you like who joins you; it wasn’t uncommon when I was in Italy for dinner to push three or four hours long, with the expectation that you were involved in lively conversation with your tablemates. Therefore, a simple meal becomes more. It’s a facilitator, a binding agent, and the unimposing complement to something already good: human companionship.

There is something quite beautiful about the unassuming—the things that don’t ask for attention or reward, so simple that they can only be honest, so obviously good that they can be the first to get overlooked precisely because of their simplicity. I discovered a few of these things in Italy—whether it was line-drying my clothes in the orchard behind the Casale San Giorgio of Barbarano Romano, hiking up the San Giuliano plateau on brisk yet golden mornings, or traipsing over hills bespangled with wildflowers in the hopes of finding ancient Etruscan tombs. Yet the best part about the simple things is that they are for everyone, and you certainly don’t have to go to Italy to find them. They are likely right beside you.

 

— Anna Lam

Ella’s Travel Makeup Bag

I like to think I’m a minimalist. Or at least I like to think that I’m TRYING to get there. (Spoiler: she was not, in fact, doing much to achieve this goal). As it is, my travel makeup bag has shrunk a good deal in the past two years. When I’m traveling, I tend to gravitate towards smaller, lighter products and often ones that can multi-task. I’m visiting home for two weeks, so keep reading to see what I’m bringing along.

The Face:

I tend not to use foundation or even tinted moisturizer because my skin runs fairly oily and I still haven’t found a product that doesn’t end up looking cakey on me, so I’m just bringing my Milk Makeup Blur Stick and  Glossier Stretch Concealer. The blur stick is great for oil control and evens out the tone of my skin a little. The concealer is quite bright and dewy so it’s great for areas like my under-eyes and around my nose, but it doesn’t do much for coverage. Which is fine for me, because I don’t really look for that in a concealer. I’m also bringing Glossier Cloud Paint in Dusk, which I use under my cheekbones to accent them, and my Glossier Haloscope for highlight. Although I generally use a bit of powder on my T-zone for oil control, I decided not to include it in my travel bag.

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The Eyes:

For my eyebrows, I’m just using my all-time favorite brow product: Glossier Boy Brow in black. It grooms and fills brows at the same time, which is great for people with sad brows (me) and people who don’t know how to do their brows (me). For eyes, I’m bringing the Jillian Dempsey Lid Tint in bronze, which is a sheer yet buildable cream eyeshadow. I also use cloud paint as eyeshadow, when I’m feeling a slightly peachy/brown eye.  My eyeliner situation is a bit strange. I haven’t found a single eyeliner that stays on my eyelids longer than two hours—gel, liquid, or pencil (even while using the Smashbox eyeshadow primer). What I did discover was that layering a liquid eyeliner OVER a pencil eyeliner somehow will last me through the day. So, much to the annoyance of my trying-to-be-minimalist-self, I’m bringing two eyeliners with me: a kohl liner by Jillian Dempsey and the Stila All Day liquid liner. My mascara is the Too Faced Better than Sex, which has very bulky packaging. But it’s such a good mascara that I don’t care.

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The Lips:

For lips I’m just bringing my Glossier lipstick in Leo, and the Cherry Balm dot com. These can be worn separately or together to create more intense looks or more natural lips.

And of course everything fits neatly into a Glossier pink pouch, which I really love using when I travel because it’s like I bubble-wrapped all my makeup. It fits quite neatly in my carry-on and I don’t have to worry about anything spilling or breaking during my flight.

So, there you have the ten makeup items I bring with me while traveling. I think I’d still like to downsize a bit, though everything fits pretty neatly into one bag so I’d be happy either way.

 

–Ella Liu

Cindy’s Summer Evening Skincare Routine

 

After a much-needed hiatus I am back with my evening skincare routine! For the summer months, I’ve streamlined it (and I really mean streamlined) down to a few light-weight essentials. To begin, I’ve got the ever-annoying combination skin that tends to veer oily, so moisture, contrary to popular belief, is very important.

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I start off with the Khiels Ultra Facial Cleanser, which is just a basic face wash. However, it has squalane in it, which makes it more moisturizing than your average cleanser. It also does a pretty fantastic job at removing makeup, although I prefer pre-cleansing with a cotton-pad soaked in micellar water first.

Next I apply one and a half pumps of my Curology formula. I’ve been using it for about six months now and it has made a massive difference. I rarely break out now, and if I do it’s because of travel or bad diet habits (cheese is so good, y’all, but so bad).

Every other night I’ll use The Ordinary retinoid 2% emulsion. It is not the best retinol I’ve ever used, but it does its job and it is hella affordable, so definitely will continue to use and repurchase.

Before moisturizer I dab on a bit of the Khiels Creamy Avocado Eye Treatment, which is one of my favorite eye creams. I use my ring finger, since it is the most delicate, and use light inward strokes.

My current go-to moisturizer is the Khiels Skin Rescuer (there seems to be a Khiels theme emerging). It is light but super moisturizing and very safe for sensitive skin. I don’t usually have super sensitive skin, but I like this one because it is light-weight and gentle on sun-burned skin–which I try to avoid, but sometimes life happens.

My lips are perpetually chapped, so I like to slather on a ton of lip balm before bed. For the last 6 months I’ve been using the Glossier balm dot com in mint non-stop (and the tube still isn’t finished!). It has such a refreshing feeling and really gets the job done. I wake up with a smooth and flake-free pout.

I top everything off with a spritz of the Mario Badescu Rose Water, which is heavenly and just the perfect thing for hot summer nights.

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My summer-time treats are the Glow Recipe Watermelon Mask, which is so extremely amazing, and the Fresh Brown Sugar Lip Scrub. The mask is moisturizing, exfoliating, fragrant, and glow-granting. I love this stuff. Just a spatula full will do the trick. My skin drinks it up right away and in the morning it is plump and glowing and smooth. Miracle worker! The lip scrub is an amazing physical exfoliant. It isn’t rough at all because the sugar particles will start to dissolve and it is super moisturizing while it sloughs away dead skin. Sometimes I feel like I don’t even need lip balm after using this scrub, but I just like the Glossier one too much.

And that is it! My super-simple, hydrating summer evening skincare products. Which of these do y’all use and which do you want to try?

-Cindy

Sweet Berry Chia Seed Pudding

At the end of last year, I decided to make a few lifestyle changes. I started training regularly (shout out to HIIT classes!), incorporated more activity throughout my day, and became stricter with my sleep schedule (still working on this one!) And the changes started to come! I’m more focused, happier, and fitter than I’ve been in a while.

A major part of this lifestyle change has been changing the way eat. I have a weakness for sour and gummy candies – Sour Patch Kids, Lemonheads, sour straws, you name it. In fact, the last guy I dated took me to a candy shop for our first date and let me GO HAM because I loved candy that much!

So dilemma: what does a girl eat eat when she is 1) a serial candy nosher  2) who wants to nourish her body and take care of herself  3) but can’t get rid of her sweet tooth?

The answer is you don’t. I still eat my candy, but I’ve found alternatives to incorporate in my diet. This Sweet Berry Chia Seed Pudding uses all natural sweetness to knock out those cravings! I usually prep it the night before (#studentlife) so that in the morning, I just need to toss in some fresh fruit and drizzle a bit of honey and I’m good to go. An added bonus is that it’s packed with fiber – 20 grams! – which makes it the perfect post-workout snack!

Sweet Berry Chia Seed Pudding

 

 

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of plain, full-fat Greek yogurt (10 g of protein): I prefer plain yogurt because it doesn’t contain added sugar. Opt for “full-fat” because “non-fat” has extra chemicals (read: sweeteners) that replace the fat. Also, full-fat yogurt keeps you fuller for longer!
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup of chia seeds (10 g of protein)
  • Berries of choice: I like frozen blueberries and fresh strawberries, sliced into coins. Pro-tip: If you use fresh strawberries, don’t cut and use them until right before you eat. This helps preserve their antioxidants!
  • Honey
  • Salt
  • Optional add-ins: hemp seeds (I love using these for added protein!), nuts, goji berries
    • Note: If you do use these additional ingredients, add a bit more almond milk to your mixture.

 

Steps:

  • Mix the yogurt, almond milk, chia seeds, and any other add-ins in a container with a lid. Stir until the yogurt and seeds are evenly distributed throughout the mixture. Add the frozen fruit on top of the mixture (they will thaw out while your mixture chills).
  • Keep your mixture in the fridge for 4-6 hours but preferably overnight.
  • Before enjoying, drizzle a bit of honey and sprinkle some salt.

 

It’s berry easy to make and serve! Your sweet tooth – and summer bod – will thank you!

— Amanda Cordero

Ella’s Acne Fighting Products

“Maybe if I love my acne, it will leave me too.” This funny (lightly depressing) quote I saw somewhere a while ago started me thinking about the implications of covering up imperfections instead of listening to the repeated chorus of “love your imperfections!” that saturates the beauty world. There’s truth and value to owning blemishes and imperfections but it’s a hard balance to strike. Who out there is confident enough to strut their acne and NOT prefer to cover it up? I wish that were me. However, in embracing the new rage for natural beauty—and because my oily skin makes it difficult for foundation really to have any staying power (a post on that later)—I decided to work on my skin itself, instead of finding the perfect blanket for it to hide under.

Before I go into the details of what I did to clear my skin, I would like to say that, as far as my limited knowledge of acne is concerned, there are two main types that I’ve ever had to deal with. Hormonal acne and “oops that’s my own fault” acne, which is acne that comes from my poor diet, stressing myself out, and not being careful about washing my face. I’ve been lucky enough mostly to encounter the latter and rarely ever experience hormonal acne, so the products and routines I go through will not work for anyone, nor will they necessarily achieve the same results. But if you’re an oily skinned, acne prone, Asian college student with a propensity towards late night snacking and a love for junk food, this might work for you.

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The Cleanser:

I’ll spare you from the “clogged pores lead to acne!” spiel and assume that if you’re reading this, you at least have the intention to wash your face regularly and remove your makeup before you go to bed. I double cleanse, and the current acne-fighting cleanser I’m using right now is Pan Oxyl’s Acne Foaming Wash. It’s incredibly strong, since it has benzoyl peroxide 10% and I would strongly advise against using it twice a day. Or even every day (though I often go through periods of time where I do). You should use it AFTER you’ve removed all your makeup, because it’s main purpose is drying out acne, not cleansing. When I came back from studying abroad in Italy last summer, I had an entire cheek of breakouts. This fantastic cleanser (available at most drugstores) cleared most of them in a week.

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The Scrub:

I asked my roommate to pick up Lush’s Dark Angels Scrub for me when she went home for spring break and then immediately got buyer’s remorse when I checked my bank account. Lush always hurts my wallet a little bit, but they have the right to. This charcoal scrub smooths, detoxifies, and cleanses skin fantastically and is one of my most important products in fighting acne. I use it twice a week, though if you have very sensitive skin I would use it less than that. The only downside is that it can be a bit messy and leaves black streaks on your face occasionally.

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The Mask:

This is already a cult favorite, and for a reason. The Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay has been touted as the world’s most powerful mask, has seen the transformations of hundreds of acne-ridden faces, and in general, lives up to the hype. I use it with apple cider vinegar, as suggested, and apply it once to twice a week. When I first bought it, I went a bit crazy and used it every single night for a week (would not recommend). That was the best my skin has ever looked….but it also hurt. So, again, for those of you with sensitive skin, I would keep it to once or twice a week.

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The Toner:

Another product I wouldn’t recommend using twice a day, simply due to how potent (and effective) it is, is Glossier Solution. I use two pumps on a cotton pad at night and swipe it over my face. Because of the AHA and BHA, it’s mildly exfoliating (and tingles a bit the first few times) and has evened out the texture and tone of my skin fantastically. My acne was already on the road to vanishing, but this really cleared up the rest.

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The Oil:

“How long is this post, Ella?” Beauty takes time, alright? After all of those acne fighting products, I need something to nourish my skin and protect it from dehydration. Rosehip oil is perfect for this, as it’s soothing, hydrating, and nourishing. It’s proclaimed as an acne deterrent as well, though I hadn’t really noticed that. This product plumps and smooths my skin overnight and yes, finally, I do in fact use it every day, twice a day.

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The Obvious:

Water. I can already hear the collective groan. I started drinking 90 oz of water a day and the only con was that I was running to the bathroom every fifteen minutes. I don’t know that it absolutely-for-certain will defeat your hormonal acne, but it certainly takes my post-junk-food-party acne down a notch. Also literally no one will ever tell you being hydrated is bad for you. Moisture is the essence of wetness and wetness is the essence of beauty. There you go.

 

There you have all the acne-fighting products on my skincare arsenal. While that’s a far cry from all the products I use (yes, I left out three cleansers, some serums, a mask or two, and all my moisturizers) they are a (current) staple in my skincare routine. And no, I haven’t very found a good spot treatment that gets rid of acne bumps overnight, nor do I think they’re really that great in the long run. My skin’s in a pretty good place right now, so I’m rotating out my anti-acne products for other gentler products, both to give my skin a break and to prevent it from acclimating to these. Again, this has been my own personal experience with combating acne and is not a universal prescription for clear, smooth skin.

Have any miracle acne products you’ve used? We’d love to hear from you!

 

–Ella Liu

From the Diary of a Sunscreen Addict

Some people collect stamps, others collect lovers. And then there are the skincare fiends like me who amass sunscreen like nobody’s business.

With summer in full throttle, there’s no better time to slather this melanoma-preventing, anti-aging goop. Before I share my favorites from my collection, here are a few things to keep in mind:

You need to wear sunscreen EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Yes, summer is the most fitting time to start, but the sun still exists for the other three seasons.

Melanin doesn’t protect you. “But Amanda, you’re brown. You don’t need sunscreen,” says everyone. Yes, my having more melanin does mean I have some natural protection, but that doesn’t mean I’m 100% protected from the sun. The sun doesn’t care if I’m brown or white or black or green . . . it’s still going to shine its damaging rays.

Don’t skimp. For the average adult, a shot glass-full of sunscreen should be the minimum for his or her body (this is about two tablespoons). For the face, anything less than a nickel-sized amount is NOT enough. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t apply generously – an SPF 30 is only an SPF 30 if you apply the recommended amounts.

Ask your dermatologist or aesthetician for sunscreen recommendations, but until then, check out my latest favorites!

Body:

The Supergoop! Everyday Broad Spectrum SPF 50 has been a mainstay in my collection for the past couple of months. And yes, I bought the 18-ounce bottle – the size encourages me to apply liberally on both my body and face. Since it contains a cocktail of essential oils, this formula is very moisturizing. Even though I have oily-combination skin, I’ll still apply this on my face; I just use oil-blotting sheets to sop up excess shine. I’m left with a beautiful glow and a protected face!

With its coconut-banana-beach scent, the Sun Bum Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 smells like quintessential summer! Enriched with vitamin E, this sunscreen will moisturize and protect your skin from harmful free radicals (which speed up the aging process).

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Face:

As established earlier, I’m a brown girl. This means that finding sunscreen that don’t leave a white cast can be . . . exhausting. One of the few I’ve found that doesn’t leave me looking ashy or gray is the Skinceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50. It takes a while for me to rub in completely, but afterwards, my complexion looks perfected.

My Holy Grail face sunscreen is the EltaMD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 – Tinted. It has a tint that blends seamlessly into my skin as well as a high zinc percentage. Also, it doesn’t leave me greasy! My only complaint is that it doesn’t come in a bigger size!

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Miscellaneous:

A habit I’ve been trying to form this year is being more diligent about sunscreen reapplication. The Ulta SPF 50 Sunscreen Rose Water Setting Spray has been a great product for this habit: it sets and refreshes makeup while giving a little bit of extra protection. It also delivers a beautiful, non-greasy glow for when my skin looks dull.

If I am combatting mid-day grease, I turn to the Ilia Moondance powder. It fights the oil spill on my forehead while also offering SPF 20. Bonus: the packaging makes this powder so easy to throw in my bag for on-the-go application.

Most people – myself included – forget to apply SPF on their lips. Thankfully, Sun Bum offers an array of SPF-packed lip products, including this Sunscreen Lip Balm SPF 30. My favorite is the watermelon flavor, but I’m looking forward to trying the pineapple, key lime, and mango ones!

 

–Amanda Cordero